Casaquit followed his hopes, dreams
By Kalani Takase
Advertiser Staff Writer
Noah Casaquit lives by faith. It is only fitting then, that he is a student at Hope International.
Casaquit, a two-time NAIA Libero of the Year, has always dreamed of playing in the Stan Sheriff Center. He'll get to realize that dream tomorrow when Hope plays Hawai'i in a men's volleyball match.
"I've always wanted to play volleyball in college and school was always a priority of mine," said Casaquit, a 5-foot senior and 2000 Moanalua High grad.
After graduating, Casaquit landed a job at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, but still held out hope for school.
"When I got hired at Pearl Habor, I figured I couldn't really advance any further in life and I still wanted to play volleyball, so when I got the opportunity, I jumped on it," Casaquit said.
The opportunity came from Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa, but Casaquit opted out after a year in the Midwest.
"From Pearl Harbor, I went to Graceland, but I never got used to the cold," Casaquit said. "(Hope International) coach (Victor Jennings-Santiago) is from Hawai'i and I contacted him and he had an opening for me, so I was super lucky."
Casaquit made an immediate impact at the school in Fullerton, Calif. He had 138 digs as a sophomore, second most on the team. Last year, he led the Royals with 289 digs and a No. 3 final national ranking. Eight matches into this season, Casaquit is averaging a team-best 3.19 digs per set.
Jennings-Santiago, who was born in Sāmoa but raised in Hawai'i, says Casaquit has held his team together through his defense in the back row.
"We're really strong defensively. I think we are probably if not the best, then one of the best in our conference in the backcourt; passing and defense," said Jennings-Santiago, a Waipahu graduate, who was named NAIA Coach of the Year after a 16-10 2009 season. "Nothing drops unless it's a really good ball hit straight down. Because we touch a lot of balls we're able to hang in there with the big teams and I think Noah has been a big part of that happening in our program."
Casaquit said he takes pride in his defense, especially being from Hawai'i.
"It's about playing with tenacity and refusing to let the ball drop that's all we're here for," Casaquit said. "Local players, I think that we play with a lot of emotion and in volleyball no matter how tall you are, it's all about heart."
Casaquit is one of five Royals from Hawai'i. The others are junior outside hitter/defensive specialist Mana Guerreiro (Kalāheo '06 of Kailua) and younger brother Kaimi Guerreiro (sophomore outside hitter; Kalāheo '01 of Kailua), sophomore defensive specialist Henry Valiente (Farrington '02 of Honolulu) and freshman defensive specialist Kahale Morgan (Kamehameha '09 of Hale'iwa).
"We're brothers," Casaquit said. "I have a house here and they come over daily. It's like a family everyone is drawn toward, even if they're not from Hawai'i."
Kaimi Guerreiro, who leads the team with 3.72 kills per set, said having the Hawai'i players has eased his transition to HIU after transferring from Long Beach City College in the fall.
"It's cool. Any time you have that local camaraderie, it just helps because you have people who understand you and know where you are coming from," said Guerreiro. "It's just nice to have people from home, it makes you feel that much closer to home."
Jennings-Santiago, who grew up in Halāwa and graduated from UH, is as excited as the rest of the local group to play at the Stan Sheriff Center this week.
"We all grew up in Hawai'i, watching UH volleyball on TV and finally we will be there playing and it's exciting," Jennings-Santiago said. "I have to thank (UH coach) Charlie (Wade) for giving us this opportunity to do this. It's not always possible for an NAIA school to play against an NCAA school and it's in that 10,000-seat arena on live TV."
Casaquit could hardly contain himself when thinking about playing against the Warriors.
"It's literally a dream. Even though it's not No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the NCAA, it's us playing in front of friends and family," he said. "It's just surreal, a lot of my family members never saw me play volleyball they just know it's something I do so this is a chance for me to show them what I've been working toward."
MORE MEN'S VOLLEYBALL
• Stanford sophomore outside hitter Brad Lawson ('Iolani '08 of Honolulu) was named Sports Imports/AVCA Division I-II National Player of the Week yesterday after helping the Cardinal beat UCLA and UC Irvine last weekend. In Friday's sweep of the Bruins, Lawson had 15 kills, five digs and two assists while hitting .400. He hit .372 with 22 kills, nine digs and three blocks in Saturday's four-set win over the Anteaters.
• UNLV sophomore forward Jamie Smith ('Iolani '08 of Kailua) was named Mountain West Conference Player of the Week on Monday after averaging a double-double in a pair of wins last week. Smith had 10 points and seven rebounds in a 65-59 win over New Mexico last Wednesday. She had 14 points, 15 rebounds and eight steals in Saturday's 66-59 win over San Diego State.
• Linfield (Ore.) senior guard Cody Tesoro (Baldwin '05 of Kahului) tied for a game-high 20 points with four rebounds and two assists in a 74-70 win over George Fox (Ore.) Saturday.
SWIMMING & DIVING
• Vassar (N.Y.) sophomore Jack Smart (Punahou '07 of Honolulu) was named Swimmer of the Week by The Liberty League on Monday. Smart won the 400-yard individual medley (4:27.02), the 100 individual medley (55.77), the 100 breaststroke (1:02.43) and was on the winning 200 medley relay team (1:42.92).
• Cal State Northridge junior Brooke Doane (Kamehameha '07 of 'Ewa Beach) beat Cal State Bakersfield's Veronica Dimas, 6-3, 6-3 in the top singles draw of a team match Saturday. She teamed with Anna Yang to win the No. 1 doubles match, 8-4, over Julian Mannix and Dimas. The Matadors won, 7-0. In Sunday's 7-0 win over Cal State Stanislaus, Doane won at No. 1 singles after her opponent forfeited down 3-0 in the first set and also won 8-0 with Yang at No. 1 doubles.
• Arizona State sophomore Kahoku Palafox (Maryknoll '08 of Kailua) scored a 9.7 on the uneven bars and a 9.125 on the balance beam in a dual meet against Washington Saturday. The Sun Devils won, 195.65-195.425.
• UC Davis junior Brandon Low (Saint Louis '06 of Honolulu) was just one of two Aggies to win their matches in a dual meet against Cal Poly Friday. Low, who is ranked 15th at 133 pounds, defeated No. 8 Boris Novachkov, 6-3, in the 34-7 loss to the Mustangs. In Saturday's 39-4 loss to Cal State Bakersfield, Low again was the lone winner for UC Davis. He beat Justin Durham, 17-7, to claim his seventh straight victory.